Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Oregon Appeals Court: 1st A No Defense to Church in Libel Suit

International Church of the Foursquare GospelImage via Wikipedia
In a case headed for the state's highest court, the Oregon Appeals Court has reinstated a $355,000 libel judgment against a church regarding allegations that a former pastor misappropriated church funds.

Writing the majority opinion in Tim Tubra v. John Michael Cooke, Ron Swor, and The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (Case No. A134332), Judge Rex Armstrong said the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution does not immunize church officials from the defamation claim brought by fired interim pastor Tim Tubra. A Multnomah County Circuit Judge initially tossed the jury verdict, claiming the court lacked jurisdiction because of the Free Exercise Clause, which states: "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof [emphasis added]."

As reported in The Oregonian, the appellate court concluded that defamatory statements are not religious by nature or shielded by the First Amendment.  Allegations that Tubra engaged in theft are no more a religious subject "than is a defamatory statement accusing a pastor of child molestation," Judge Armstrong wrote.

Tubra was never charged criminally after he was terminated as interim pastor in 2004. The Appeals Court heard arguments in the case in August 2008.

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  1. Ironically, The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel was founded by a big friend of the media. Aimee Semple McPherson was one of the first televangelists (on radio), right down to the sleazy sex scandals. She even faked her own kidnapping to get publicity.

  2. hmmm, it is important to remember that "Christian" means "Christ-like", not "like other Christians"